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Posted 31 January 2014
Pitch fee arrears on a residential park in England
All park owners at some point are likely to encounter a resident who fails to pay their pitch fees and starts accruing a debt. By virtue of the term implied by paragraph 21, Schedule 1, Part 1, Chapter 2 of the Mobile Homes Act 1983, as amended, into any residential agreement (“the Agreement”) a resident is obliged to pay the pitch fees and any failure to do so will be a breach of the Agreement. A park owner in this situation should correspond with the residents informing them of their arrears and seeking their proposals for payment. If a resident is unable to pay in full a park owner may want to consider accepting payment by instalments.
Where correspondence has failed to resolve the issue the park owner will have three options to recover their money.
A park owner could make an application to the Small Claims Court pursuant to which, if undefended by the homeowner, the park owner would be able to obtain a judgement against the homeowner for the pitch fee arrears and fixed costs requiring payment within a given timescale.
Instead of a small claims application the park owner could decide to follow the procedure for obtaining the permission of the County Court to terminate the Agreement on the grounds that a term has been breached and the breach not remedied despite notice being served. If a park owner decides to pursue this option their first step should be placing the homeowner on notice of breach. When issuing a notice of breach there are certain requirements that must be met, and a park owner should ensure they are complied with as any failure to meet the requirements could invalidate the notice. If after the sending of the notice the homeowner does not pay within a reasonable time the Court may consider granting permission to terminate. However to be successful in this type of application the arrears typically need to be substantial and the Court also has to find that it is reasonable to give permission to terminate the Agreement.
Where a park owner is unlikely to succeed in an application for termination of the Agreement, because the arrears are not substantial or the resident has a history of delaying until notice is served before paying, the park owner may want to consider making an application to the First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) for a declaration that the resident is in breach of a term of the Agreement. If the Tribunal determines that the homeowner was in breach of their agreement they would make an order to that effect and also that the arrears are payable. An application could then be made to the County Court for an order for payment or the declaration could be the first step in an application for termination if the homeowner continued to be in arrears of pitch fees.
If you have a homeowner who is in arrears or is a persistent late payer and you want advice regarding the steps you can take then contact the parks team by telephone 01392 207020 or email firstname.lastname@example.org